City Parking Trends

November 5, 2018

City parking. Some look at it as a necessary evil. Others as a godsend in a congested city. Either way, paid parking is here to stay and playing an ever-more important role as more and more people move into cities (also a recent trend). In fact, parking is now looked at by cities as part of the broader movement to ease traffic congestion and create more livable, walkable communities. There are a number of ways that parking has changed since the days of meter maids and coin-operated machine. Below are a few parking trends that we are seeing now that will continue in the future:

Parking Goes Digital: It’s All About The Technology

As in all aspects of modern life, parking has moved into the digital realm. Let’s review two of the ways that parking customers are now interacting with parking in the digital space.

Payments Via Apps

The days of making sure you had change, in case you needed to feed the meter at the urban center, have gone by the wayside. Today, the parking industry is moving rapidly from cash to e-payments. Credit card payments and especially online payments through mobile phones are more and more common and are quickly become the norm.

Finding Spaces: Way-finding Technologies

With GPS, cloud software, and mobile phones, municipalities are installing sensor space monitoring systems to allow parking customers to easily find open spaces on the street and in lots. These sensors give real-time data to drivers via smartphone apps, and in some cases through their vehicles, not only letting them know if spaces are available but showing them how to get there so they don’t waste time driving around. This helps out the driver but also the city, ensuring smoother traffic flows and reducing congestion.

The future of parking is mobile with apps that provide real-time information on availability and guidance, and allow easy online payment. These technologies are beneficial to customers, making their parking experience seamless and hassle-free. They also help the parking industry’s next trend, making parking more environmentally friendly by reducing drive time looking for parking, which decreases fuel consumption and emissions.

Energy Efficiency And Sustainable Solutions

Apps are one way parking is changing for customers, and helping the environment at the same time. But there are other, perhaps not as obvious, ways that parking is becoming more green. Parking facilities are striving for more energy efficiency by installing motion detection sensors and timers for lights, energy-efficient LED lighting, and solar powered meters and pay stations. These updates are not only better for the environment; they also save costs in long term use.

In addition, the parking industry is encouraging greener, alternative modes of transportation. Electric car charging stations as well as special access and parking spaces for hybrids and electric vehicles are now common in parking lots. In addition, and perhaps counterintuitively, municipal parking facilities are adding areas for bicycle parking.

Providing Alternatives To Driving Alone

The way we get around cities has changed drastically in the last few years with the need to drive your own car becoming less desirable. We’ve seen a rise in popularity of ride-sharing/on demand companies such as Uber and Lyft and an ever-increasing emphasis on the environment with cities providing more bike lanes and promoting mass-transit systems. Parking is now seen as more interconnected to all of these alternative transportation methods. Jumping on these trends, the parking industry itself is beginning to coordinate and operate car-sharing services and shuttles.

We expect to continue to see the above trends in cities as the parking industry is seen more and more as a critical part a city’s economic development success. Parking is interconnected with transportation and mobility, impacting not only a city’s economy but also its liveability. Here in Norwalk, the Norwalk Parking Authority has already put in place many of the trends above. You can now drive to the urban areas of Norwalk such as SoNo or Wall Street and find available parking and make payments via mobile apps. Energy efficient lighting, car charging stations and bike parking areas are available in the South Norwalk Railroad Station, the Maritime Garage and other municipal lots. In addition, the Norwalk Transit District has just rolled out a pilot ride-sharing/on demand service called Wheels2U.